hi folks, just published this in Middle East Times and wanted feedback from you folks about this question of who and what is pro-israel and what and who are anti-israel. Very interested in responses and discussion. peace, marc

What Exactly is Pro-Israel?
Published: June 16, 2008
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the most powerful lobby groups in the United States, just concluded its annual Washington conference. It drew a long line of administration officials and the presidential candidates to its doorsteps, all touting orthodox lines on what it means to be pro-Israel – messages carefully crafted to please the lobby.

Now is a good time to ask, what exactly does 'pro-Israel' mean, and who is pro-Israel in the United States today?

The ones who twist every arm in Congress to be silent, to suppress what they know is right to do in terms of a fair Israeli-Palestinian deal? We have before us now a hair-trigger set of confrontations from Lebanon to the Persian Gulf, with long-range missiles, chemical and nuclear capable, aimed at Israel from a country in the Gulf that has no business in the Gaza Strip.

And yet, due to the unending festering of the Palestinian tragedy, Shiite Iran has stepped into Sunni Gaza, in addition to Iraq and Lebanon, primarily because the United States failed to engage fairly, or at all, in the last eight years.

Have our actions made Israel safer, and do they reflect a pro-Israel position? Or is this in fact an anti-Israel position that is sacrificing Jewish and Palestinian children on an altar of self-destructive fears and hatreds? In the end, American politicians are going to say and do what the most effective lobbyists tell them to do regarding Israel. And that translates back to the American people and their voice. The American people must decide what is pro-Israel and what is anti-Israel.

Some interesting lessons learned come from Northern Ireland: On March 26, 2007 Ian Paisley, co-founder of the DUP party of Northern Ireland, sat side by side with Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein, his most reviled enemy, and the two of them pledged their full participation in an Irish government.

This is the same Ian Paisley who had consistently been the voice of Protestant opposition and demonization of Catholics. This is the same Sinn Fein that had represented the Irish Republican Army as it carried out decades of violence against Protestants. How did these enemies get to 2007? There was a little stop along the way in 1998, in which the United States and one George Mitchell played a central role.

In 1998, former Senator George Mitchell, of Irish descent, oversaw the completion of the historic Good Friday Accord that led eventually to the power sharing arrangements which Northern Ireland now enjoys. He was supported by another man of partial Irish descent, U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Senator Mitchell once told me in person exactly how he managed to successfully outmaneuver the spoilers in the Irish/Protestant conflict. He explained to me: "I had a pad of paper with my handwritten notes. I had the only copy. On it I placed what each side pledged to do, and exactly when and in what sequence they would do it. I let them know that if either side failed in the sequence, then the president of the United States would publicly lay the blame for the failure of the entire accord on the side that had broken their word."

These words were so simple, so remarkable, so pristine in their understanding of negotiation and arbitration. And this is precisely what has been missing from Palestinian/Israeli peace processes from the very beginning.

It is not as if the American road to Irish peacemaking was easy. There were spoilers in America, just as there are now regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. There were people on both sides who thought they were pro-Irish. But were they pro-Irish all those decades or anti-Irish? In the end, it was Mitchell and Clinton who were the most pro-Irish, because they stopped the killing of Irish children once and for all.

It goes without saying that the issues were exceedingly complex, that it took years to identify the compromises, and that Mitchell's charisma and skills added up to much more than a pad of paper. However, what was irreplaceable was the American political will to authorize Mitchell to boil it all down to that pad of paper and its conditions.

Perhaps it is time to finally tell our congressmen to tell Mitchell to go to the Holy Land, with a single pad of paper in hand, armed with the only weapon necessary: the American will to write on that pad of paper what needs to be written, what everyone knows must be written.

How many more Palestinian and Jewish children have to die before the American people find the willpower to send a brilliant negotiator to the Middle East with a single pad of paper?


Marc Gopin is the James Laue Professor of World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University in Washington D.C. He can be reached at This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Views: 68

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Nice, Marc,

I like your question: "who and what is pro-israel and what and who are anti-israel?" Great question.
Let me address it along with your statement:
"the American will to write on that pad of paper what needs to be written, what everyone knows must be written."

Is it close enough to the truth to say that 'everyone knows', ie - has the same conception of - what "must be written"? I can tell you my conception of what needs to be written first and foremost.
And as a born-and-bred American, I answer both questions in such a way as - that which is pro-israel will necessarily also be pro-American, and that which is anti-Israel will necessarily also be anti-American.

What I think absolutely and positively needs to be written on that pad besides anything else, if we really want this to work, is that each of the sides will, in its territory, support and defend a bill of rights that guarantees and defends the fundamental human rights (freedom of speech, press, religion, due process and equal protection) to all of its citizens, whether members of majority or minority groups.
Otherwise there will be nothing to prevent the forces of intolerance from gaining a strategic advantage within society through the use of organized violence and intimidation, and thereafter again presenting a direct threat to Israel's existence or democracy. Otherwise we will not even be making a pretense of standing up for what was meant to be the universal part of our Constitution - the notion that human rights are inalienable, and inherent in everyone.

I also think that the Irish analogy only goes so far. Ireland did not have an Iran or a Saudi Arabia to fund its radicalism. Nonetheless, I can imagine peace being negotiated by someone with the knowledge and ability to persuade both sides how much they stand to gain if the process succeeds. But only by such a person. With intimate personal knowledge of both sides, their cultures, and even their languages.

What is pro-Israel is what will bring peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, and between Palestinians and Israelis (and Israel peacefully coexisting with its neighbors as well).

What is anti-Israel is what will-not while saying it will, or what will make matters even worse.

To have peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians they must share a common respect for the fundamental human rights. That is because those rights are universal, and so apply to each of them as well.
I strongly believe that if both sides would defend and promote human rights on an even level, it would very soon thereafter make very little difference where the borders were.

I guess I see an 'American solution' to all of this, which will require some folks on both sides giving up any realistic hope of kicking the other out, or of making aliving from violating their rights.
And I mean American in the sense that Thomas Paine used in 1776 when he wrote:
"The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind."

There is a reason that both Israelis and Palestinians whom I know personally have moved to the US.
And have no problem with Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, here.
It was no magic that built the environment which, which all of its historical betrayals and flaws and evils,
is still one to which people have flocked from around the globe. It was a degree of common respect, of common standards, which made for greater social harmony and increased productivity of this US environment.

Without ever implying that Israel and Palestine should become more like the US in culture or anything else,
I know that for peaceful coexistence to truly reign there,
they at least need the kind of defense of personal freedoms as guaranteed in the US bill of rights.

Anything that poses as peace without guaranteeing those fundamental freedoms, that universal definition of mutual toleration, will not for the long term ensure peaceful coexistence.

HI Yigal, what i was referring to about what everyone knows must be on the pad of paper is that those who are in the know actually had a pretty good idea of what each side would have to give up. Yet this remained not written down, which was sad. We knew that Jerusalem would be a shared capital, we knew that most refugees could never return to israel but some should. we knew many things but no one compelled the sides to prepare their citizens for this. your analysis of the ideal intervention is great, and i see where you are going in terms of true coexistence. the word 'justice' is missing from your description. you are starting from scratch and assuming shared commitment to human rights. but there is a massive grievance here that is so grave from 48 that it denies the legitimacy of israel as such. this cannot be addressed only by the word coexistence or even the word 'human rights'. memory and acknowledgement must be here, which is why most people assume that as part of a final deal israel will have to take at least some significant responsibility for the tragedy of the naqba. after all, the knesset itself in 1950 barely defeated a resolution to let back in the refugees. had they done that then there would have been less room for Russian and American Jews, but no Arafat no Hamas, in my opinion. how tragic. other than that i think your vision of what must be negotiated culturally and morally for the future is spot on.
Thanks, Marc.
I'm glad we agree that much.
As for our minor difference:
I wouldn't say there was peaceful coexistence without justice.
I'm really not asserting that there is a shared committment to human rights.
I'm saying it's the next best thing to a law of nature that, committment or not,
it will be needed on both sides to get to a true, and just, degree of peaceful coexistence.
If you look at it objectively, if Israel has to apologize for its role in the Naqba (being created),
then the Arab world, in all fairness, has at least as much to apologize for as well.
There were massive grievances perpetrated upon Jews even before 1948, for which an apology is equally due. The Arab League owes both the Israelis and the Palestinians an apology for rejecting partition in 1947. The Arab League owes the Palestinians an apology for refusing to use Israel's offer in 1968 as a way to create the Palestinian state then and there. Really, in a perfect world, both sides would apologize profusely to the other.
Neither was close to blameless. And there were heroes on both sides who risked themselves for the other.

Just throwing this out there - How about not apologizing but instead giving all the right to return (the conditions will be a logistical issue), so long as they accept the human rights principles which all must accept for there to be a harmonious society.

As for property, anyone who actually lost personal or real propery should be compensated fairly and rationally for it. But I don't agree that Israel is denied any legitimacy by virtue of grievances no greater than those it suffered at the hands of those whose legitimacy are not by the same standard put into question.
dont understand your last paragraph. but i agree about all the other apologies that should be forthcoming. yes, it would be great to offer right of return and commitment to human rights. the reason that is unlikely right now is because there is zero trust on the jewish side to be overwhelmed demographically by refugees who they know hate them. but i have always believed that some kind of return is really important, for both sides. i also think that in many instances it would be great to see a welcome and restoration of citizenship rights for many sephardim.
Sorry, I meant "property."
Never mind the last sentence if it is too confusing.
It's true that 'there is zero trust' on the Jewish side to be "overwhelmed demographically by refugees.'
That's one of the reasons why a real solution will have to allow for an evolution over the long term.
Having the Muslim authorities publicly support the opening up the Temple Mount to worshippers of all faith, as I've called for in another discussion, would be one way to broadcast to the Israeli public that the basis for trust is being built in practice, and not just in theory.
Having any potential returnees to Israel, also affirm their allegiance to Israel, would be another.
(That raises a host of questions about what kind of naturalization process
would be implemented, but not impossible ones.)
Hi there Marc. That is a great article thanks for posting it on here. I was particularly struck by your reference to the conflict that happened in my country and in which Senator Mitchell played a very positive role. I think there is much to be learnt from comparing the Troubles (do you use that term to describe the Northern Ireland conflict in the US?) to the Palestinian Israeli conflict but there are differences. Firstly, there was no ‘Iran’ in the Troubles. No Irish government cheered after the Brighton Bombing and from the 1980’s onwards there role was nothing but positive. Now if another American Senator was to go to the Holy Land with nothing but that pad of paper how many columns would he have? Would Iran be one of them? This I think is the key difference between the Troubles and the ME conflict. The former was inward looking and repulsed most people while the other radiated outwards and sucks people in. Most people in Britain have more to say on the conduct of Israel (or Palestine) than they do on the DUP (or Sinn Fein). This is of course related to my discussion ‘Who is the most extreme’, which I accidentally deleted. I am sorry for that you made a great contribution.
hi max, yes i agree that conflicts in the Holy Land, maybe for many centuries have generated far more global heat than the Troubles. Iran is only the latest interloper. there have always been christian and muslim wars over this land, by proxy or otherwise. that is why the only word for solutions that matters is 'comprehensive', 'comprehensive'. everyone's stake must be at the table. iran has serious strategic concerns and interests that are really more about america and Iraq, and other adversaries, but Israel's nuclear arsenal is also a major factor. so, yes, negotiations, in my opinion, must be far more comprehensive and inclusive than are being imagined. that is why i want the organization of islamic countries, not only the Arab League, to sign on eventually to a deal. and we need a u.s. that is prepared to normalize relations with Iran, in exchange for a nuclear deal. but even with ireland, the american spoilers from fundamentalist protestants down south to catholics in Boston were stubborn, formidable, and wealthy. enough to make ireland far more extreme than most people wanted. that is the dynamic to watch for and to try to undermine in israel and palestine.
Hi there Marc. Thanks for your reply. I am curious to know how far a comparison can be made between the Israel/Palestine conflict and the Troubles. I gave one clear example above where there is a difference which I think most would obviously agree with. But more generally what is your view? I certainly think things can be learnt from the Troubles on a ground level. There were many local campaigns during the conflict which were excellent at bring people together but I am less sure about how much can be learnt from looking at what went on in the corridors of power.
I am a big believer in comparative study of conflict and peace processes. it is simple science. we would think someone crazy if they were a doctor but only studied one body. patterns emerge from conflicts. victim psychology, transference, enemies becoming more and more like each other in behavior. specifically i think that ireland was locked for a long time, with support from the outside for fringes. the grassroots efforts to link the communities paid off over time. some good lessons. civil society must prepare the ground for compromises, for what final deals will look like. obviously major differences. but all along leadership on all sides have prevented people from taking initiative. we know of many good programs where irish and jewish and palestinians sat together and learned. i saw alot of learning going on when harvard put together boston police (mostly irish) with Israeli police. unfortunately these encounters are sporadic so not enough of an impact on psychology, and it never filters down to people on the ground in the military forces. this requires a much longer discussion. in an oped i can only make superficial comparisons. the deeper things to learn come from much greater exposure and learning on all sides. i find that, for example, irish peacemakers, the best of them are brilliant, and jews and palestinians could learn alot from them. everyone can learn from Gandhi's satyagraha activists. this alone could revolutionize the environment. how to protest with love, not with hate, is something that has yet to seep into the Israeli Left for the most part, whereas it was a common assumption of Gandhi's followers, King's disciples, and many others around the world. comparisons teach us things.
Again thanks for the reply Marc. Do you know off the top of your head any of these meeting between irish peace makers and Israeli/Palestinian ones? There was a story in the Guardian a few years back which I am trying to trace down but I can't find it.

Cheers. Max.

PS. Your blog is great.
this is has a long history now. for most recent, see:

also see this important discussion given your previous comments.
Thanks for that Marc.



Latest Activity

Dr. David Leffler posted a blog post

Cruise Ships for Peace in The Middle East

By Teresa Studzinski, Arlene J. Schar, and Dr. David Leffler Variations of this article were…See More
Nov 6
Shefqet Avdush Emini updated their profile
Oct 29
Mauricio San Miguel Llosa updated their profile
Oct 4
Amir Salameh updated their profile
Jun 25
Fredda Goldfarb updated their profile
Apr 15
Dr. David Leffler posted a blog post
Apr 9


"Like" us on Facebook

Promote MEPEACE online



© 2019   Created by Eyal Raviv. Supported by One Region, One Future.   ..

Feedback | Report an Issue  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service